How to make the best of your visit to the biggest indoor playground in Philly (aka the Auto Show)

As the winter takes over Philly and cabin fever sets in, If you want your kids to blow off some steam and get out of the house, but not out in the cold, head to the Philadelphia Auto Show. I've been taking my kids there ever since they could walk. It's affordable, warm (very warm), and it's a lot of fun for everyone in the family. Since I've been going there for so many years, I wanted to share some helpful family tips on how to make the best out of your visit there.

1) Get there early

The show opens at 9 a.m. on weekends. Get your tickets online (free for kids under 6), and walk into the showroom as it opens. I know it can be hard getting kids out of the house, but they are probably up at 6:30 a.m. anyway, so even if you live 30 minutes away, it should be feasible to get there by 9. The place gets packed quickly. By 10 a.m., it's already very busy and you might have to wait a while to get into the most sought-after cars. But between 9 and 9:30, the place is so big it almost feels like you are the only one there. If your kids are taller than 44 inches, you can take them on the Jeep ride. Early in the morning, it might only be a 15-minute wait. Go later and you might have to wait 45+ minutes.

2) Get the wristband for your kids

I don't remember this from previous years, but this year they suggested kids get a wristband with their parents' phone numbers on them. They are available right after you get your tickets checked. I highly recommend it. It's a big place, and kids could easily get lost in their wonderment. We've never lost them but it's great peace of mind to know you can easily be reached if separated.

3) Let the kids explore

My kids love to touch everything, but in real life they often hear "no, don't touch this".  At the auto show we let them freely explore. 

There are so many colorful buttons and screens to touch, doors to open, and trunks to hide in. Last Saturday, if you opened a trunk and found a girl inside, it was probably my daughter.

My son would get in the driver seat and take us to countless imaginary places. I would ask him "where are you taking me?" and he'd say "New York Central!" (he's a train-obsessed boy).

Dad did a lot of pretending too and was a kid again.

4) Take a break

As the place gets busier, it might start feeling overwhelming for the kids, and exhausting for you as it was for us. So after 90 minutes of non-stop climbing in and out of cars and trucks, we found this huge quiet area, just outside of the main showroom (exit near the toy store area). My kids were able to run around without running into anyone, and it was nice to have some quiet time.

5) Bring your own lunch

We had our lunch in the same quiet area. We always bring our lunch as it's easy and cheap. Alternatively, the Reading Terminal Market is right around the corner and an amazing food destination, but I can't imagine how crowded it must be this time of year.

6) Come early (yes again)

I can't emphasize this enough. If you have kids tagging along, arrive before 9. Or visit during the week if you have time off.

I know nothing about cars. My car knowledge goes like this: there are SUVs, pick-up trucks, Fiat 500s, Mini Coopers, cool old cars and other cars of various colors. I don't even go to the auto show to look at the next car I may buy, I have a 17-year-old blue car that has almost 200k miles on it and still kicking. However the auto show has always been my favorite show at the convention center (yes even more so than the flower show). I'm like a kid when I go there, amazed by almost anything, I check out the trunks too, push the buttons, turn the knobs, gush at the old cars and wonder at the electric cars. It's simple fun and always leads to fond memories for our family.

If you want some unique and memorable photographs of your family exploring this giant indoor playground, book a session with me. I'm available both weekends the show is open (February 2 - 10, 2019).


Check out my Instagram accounts where I post pictures daily: childhood photography @blinckphotography or landscape and street photography @filladelphie.

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